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Shambhala Art can be seen as a process, a product, and an arts education program.  As a process, it brings wakefulness and awareness to the creative and viewing processes through the integration of contemplation and meditation.  As a product, it is art that wakes people up. Shambhala Art is also an international non-profit arts education program based on the Dharma Art teachings of the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala Buddhism, Shambhala International, and Naropa Institute.  Shambhala Art is a division of Shambhala and is presided over by his son and heir, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. This program is taught by trained and authorized Shambhala Art teachers.

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The Five Part Curriculum

Shambhala Art’s education program connects meditation to the creative and viewing process.

We use concepts to burn concept.
— Widely attributed to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

The core of the arts education program is Shambhala Art training. Consisting of five parts, this training progressively expands our view, starting with our own senses and guiding us to see how art manifests in our everyday life. Each part consists of a series of experiential exercises, supplemented with short lectures. These parts can be offered in different combinations (e.g. Parts 1 and 2 on a single weekend), or as five-part intensives (with the support and approval of the Shambhala Art team). Each part has the previous part as its prerequisite (e.g. Part 1 is the prerequisite for Part 2)


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PART I:
COMING TO YOUR SENSES

The practice of dharma art is a way to use our lives to communicate without confusion the primordial and magical nature of what we see, hear, and touch. — Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

First thought is best in art. — Wm. Blake

The creative process has more to do with perception than talent.  The creative process requires that we first perceive our world as it is before we can represent it in some form or use it as a launching pad for expression.  Meditation helps this process by clarifying our perceptions, relaxing our relentless self-dialoguing, and revealing the source of creativity.  We also learn through meditation that we can rest in “square one,” a state of mindfulness and awareness where our mind, body, and environment are synchronized and self-expression can transform into pure-expression.


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PART II:
SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE

The map is not the territory. — Alfred Korzbyski

Through meditation we come to see things as they are as opposed to how we think or imagine they are.  We discover that everything has a felt presence to it as well as a thought sense that we bring to it.  What we create and perceive communicates through signs and symbols.  Signs communicate primarily information and the thought sense of things.  Symbols on the other hand are primarily about non-conceptual direct experience, the presence and the felt sense of things.  Seeing the difference between signs and symbols, thought sense and felt sense, as well as how they work together empowers our creative and viewing processes.


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PART III:
THE CREATIVE PROCESS

There is such a thing as unconditional expression that does not come from self or other.  It manifests out of nowhere like mushrooms in a meadow, like hailstones, like thundershowers.
— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

The creative process can be a form of meditation-in-action when it begins with coming to our senses and arriving at “square one.” We do this naturally when we unconditionally face a blank piece of paper, an empty stage, an idle instrument, or an unplanted garden and allow inspiration to naturally arise out of that space. If that inspiration is met with mindfulness and awareness, it can be given shape and form and built into a result that has a life and energy of its own that others can percieve and experience.  The creative process is only half of the equation; the balance is an awakened viewing process that provides the means to fully perceive what is being communicated.


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PART IV:
THE POWER OF DISPLAY

The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away.  It is always on his doorstep.
— Paul Strand

As we explore things as they are in greater and greater depth, we find many shapes, sounds, tastes, colors, and so on with patterns that suggest connections to the seasons, emotions, truths, and wisdoms.  Cultures throughout history have developed systems to merge their intuitive experience with their collective knowledge and display it through their arts.  In Part Four we focus on one of the most universal systems, the five elements: earth, water, fire, air (wind), and space, and how they form a Gestalt, mandala, or interconnected dynamic display.  In discovering the nature of these elements, we also learn about ourselves and our unique means of expression and how in spite of all our differences there is some universality to our communication.


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PART V:
ART IN EVERDAY LIFE

Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.
— Pablo Picasso

Some feel that if an idea or inspiration is clear, or pure, then whatever is produced will automatically be the same.  However, the gap between inspiration and manifestation can be huge and filled with obstacles, negativity, and self-consciousness.  The five elements not only describe our world and our experience, but four of them offer means, actions we can take, to work with these challenges: Pacifying (water), Enriching (earth), Magnetizing (fire), and Destroying (wind).  These four actions are used in everyday life, as well as the creative process, as the vehicles for compassionate action and pure expression where obstacles become challenges and negativity is transformed into greater vision and truth.